Microbial Ecology

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 143–165 | Cite as

The microbial ecology of the Great Salt Lake

  • Frederick J. Post


The Great Salt Lake is actually two lakes. A highly saline (330-gml−1) northern arm and a moderately saline (120-gml−1) southern arm separated by a semipermeable rock causeway. The lake, particularly the northern arm, has a massive accumulation of organic matter resulting from more than 100,000 years of productivity, cycling from a freshwater to a saline lake, plus the influence of human industry and agriculture in more recent times. The north arm planktonic and attached community consists principally of, in order of biomass: bacteria of at least two genera,Halobacterium andHalococcus; two algae,Dunaliella salina andD. viridis; the brine shrimp,Anemia salina; and, two species of brine fly,Ephydra gracilis andE. hians and possibly one more species. The algae and the bacteria appear to depend on each other for nutrients. The bacteria use organic matter produced by the algae and the algae use ammonia produced by the bacteria and possibly the brine shrimp. The production of ammonia appears to be the rate-limiting step although there is no shortage of other forms of nitrogen in the north arm. Based on aquarium studies, the potential for biomass production of algae and bacteria is much higher than actually observed in the north arm, leading to the postulation of two additional factors controlling population; the grazing of the algae by invertebrates with the excretion of compounds rich in nitrogen, and the effect of a low habitat temperature and winter cold on the bacteria, reducing their metabolic activities to nearly zero. Some aspects of the various organisms and their metabolism are discussed. A comparison is made with recent work on the Dead Sea.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    APHA. 1971.Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater. 13th ed. American Public Health Association. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ben Amotz, A. and Avron, M. 1973. The role of glycerol in the osmotic regulation of the halophilic algaDunaliella parva.Plant Physiol. 51:875–878.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bond, R. M. 1933. A contribution to the study of the natural food cycle in aquatic environments.Bingham Oceanog. Collection Bull., Yale Univ. 4:1–89.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Borowitzka, L. J. and Brown, A. D. 1974. The salt relations of marine and halophilic species of the unicellular green algaDunaliella, The role of glycerol as compatible solute.Arch. Microbiol. 96:37–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Buchanan, R. E. and Gibbons, N. E. (eds). 1974. Bergey's Manual of Determinative Bacteriology. Williams and Wilkins Co., Baltimore, Md.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Carozzi, A. V. 1962. Observations on algal biostromes in the Great Salt Lake, Utah.J. Geol. 70:246–252.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Chapman, K. F. 1971. The Insects: Structure and Function, 2nd Ed. American Elsevier Publishing Co., Inc. N. Y., N. Y.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Clegg, J. S. 1964. The control of emergence and metabolism by external osmotic pressure and the role of free glycerol in developing cysts ofArtemia salina.J. Exp. Biol. 41:879–892.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Collins, V. G. 1963. The distribution and ecology of bacteria in freshwater.Proc. Soc. Water Treatment and Examination 12:40–73.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Copeland, B. J. 1967. Environmental characteristics of hypersaline lagoons.Univ. of Texas Contributions in Marine Science 12:207–218.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Croghan, P. C. 1958. The mechanism of osmotic regulation inArtemia salina (L): The physiology of the branchiae.J. Exp. Biol. 35:223–242.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Danon, A. and Stoeckenius, W. 1974. Photophosphorylation inHalobacterium halobium.Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 71:1234–1238.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Deevey, Jr., E. S. 1973. Sulfur, nitrogen and carbon in the biosphere.In: Carbon and the Biosphere, G. M. Woodwell and E. V. Pecan, editors. Atomic Energy Commission Symposium Series 30, United States Atomic Energy Commission.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Eardley, A. J. 1966. Sediments of Great Salt Lake.In: Guidebook to the Geology of Utah Number 20.The Great Salt Lake. W. L. Stokes, editor. Utah Geological and Mineral Survey. Salt Lake City, Utah.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Gilchrist, B. M. 1954. Haemoglobin inArtemia.Royal Soc. London Proc., Series B. 143:136–146.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Gilchrist, B. M. and Green, J. 1960. The pigments ofArtemia.Royal Soc. London, Proc., Series B. 152:118–136.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Handy, A. H. and Hahl, D. C. 1966. Great Salt Lake: Chemistry of the water.In: Guidebook to the Geology of Utah Number 20. W. L. Stokes, editor. Utah Geological and Mineral Survey. Salt Lake City, Utah.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hutchinson, G. E. 1957.A Treatise on Limnology. Vol. 1. John Wiley and Sons. N. Y., N.Y.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kao, O. H. W., Berns, D. S. and Town, W. R. 1973. The characterization of C-Phycocyanin from an extremely halo-tolerant blue-green alga,Coccochloris elebans.Biochem. J. 131:39–50.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Kaplan, I. R. and Friedmann, A. 1970. Biological productivity in the Dead Sea. I. Microorganisms in the water column.Israel J. Chem,8:513–528.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kaplan I.R. and Baedecker, M. J. 1970. Biological productivity in the Dead Sea. II. Evidence for phosphatidyl glycerophosphate lipid in sediment.Israel J. Chem. 8:529–533.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kramer, J. S., Herbes, S. E. and Allen, H. E. 1972. Phosphorous, analysis of water biomass and sediment.In: Nutrients in Natural Waters. H. E. Allen and J. R. Kramer, editors. Wiley-Interscience. N. Y., N. Y.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Kudo, R. R. 1946. Protozoology. 3rd Ed. Charles C. Thomas. Springfield, Ill.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Larsen, H. 1967. Biochemical aspects of extreme halophilism.Advan. Microbiol. Physiol. 1:97–132.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Martens, C. S. and Berner, R. A. 1974. Methane production in interstitial waters of sulfatedepleted marine sediments.Science 185: 1167–1169.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Meglitsch, P. 1967. Invertebrate Zoology. Oxford University Press. London, England.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Morrison, R. B. 1966. Predecessors of Great Salt Lake,In: Guidebook to the Geology of Utah Number 20. W. L. Stokes, editor. Utah Geological and Mineral Survey, Salt Lake City, Utah.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Nissenbaum, A. 1975. The microbiology and biogeochemistry of the Dead Sea.Microbial Ecol. 2:139–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Nixon, S. W. 1969. Characteristics of some hypersaline ecosystems. Ph.D. Thesis, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Onishi, H., McCance, M. E. and Gibbons, N. E. 1965. A synthetic medium for extremely halophilic bacteria.Can. J. Microbiol. 11:365–373.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Onishi, H. and Gibbons, N. E. 1965. Some observations on the stimulative effect of ammonium ion on the growth ofHalobacterium cutirubrum.Can. J. Microbiol. 11:1032–1034.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Porcella, D. B. and Holman, J. A. 1972. Nutrients, algal growth and culture of brine shrimp in the southern Great Salt Lake.In: Great Salt Lake and Utah's Water Resources. Proceedings of the 1st Annual Conference of the Utah Section American Water Resources Association. Utah Water Research Laboratory, Logan, Utah.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Post, F. J. 1975. Life in the Great Salt Lake.Utah Science 36:43–47.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Solórzano, L. 1969. Determination of ammonia in natural water by the phenol hypochlorite method.Limnol. Oceanog. 14:799–801.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Stephens, D. W. and Gillespie, D. M. 1972. Community structure and ecosystem analysis of the Great Salt Lake.In: Great Salt Lake and Utah's Water Resources. Proceedings of the 1st Annual Conference of the Utah Section American Water Resources Association. Utah Water Research Laboratory. Logan, Utah.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Stephens, D. W. and Gillespie, D. M. 1976. Phytoplankton production in the Great Salt Lake, Utah, and a laboratory study of algal response to enrichment.Limnol. Oceanog. 21:74–87.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Strickland, J. D. H. and Parsons, T. R. 1972. A practical handbook of seawater analysis.Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Bull. 167. 2nd Ed. Ottawa, Canada.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Stube, J. 1976. Microcosm simulation of nitrogen cycling in the Great Salt Lake. Unpublished Master of Science Thesis. Utah State University.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Van Auken, O. W. and McNulty, I. B. 1973. The effect of environmental factors on the growth of a halophilic species of algae.Biol. Bull. 145:210–222.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Walker, K. F., Williams, W. D. and Hammer, U. T. 1970. The Miller method for oxygen determination applied to saline lakes.Limnol. Oceanog. 15:814–815.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick J. Post
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUtah State UniversityLogan

Personalised recommendations